I recently watched, flabbergasted, as two of my nieces played a game of chess outdoors with giant chess pieces. What astounded me was not the size of the pieces, but rather the fact that they appeared to be playing two different games, and yet purported to be competing. When I inquired about this, my suspicions were confirmed. While my older niece attempted to compete at chess according to the actual rules of chess, my younger niece was indiscriminately capturing queens, rooks and pawns alike by simply “jumping” them. She was playing “chess” according to the rules of checkers.
It is an apt analogy of what is happening to American government. While the states, for the most part, attempt to do what they were designed and empowered to do under the Constitution — enact laws for the health, safety, and welfare of the people and experiment with public policies based upon the particular needs and desires of their populations — the national government in Washington, D.C., is playing by its own set of rules.
You probably thought I meant that figuratively, but in fact, I meant it quite literally.
Washington, D.C., is now operating not on the basis of the original Constitution that can easily be read and digested in the space of an hour, but rather on the basis of a 3,000-page version of the Constitution known as the “Constitution Annotated.” It contains not only the plain and simple text of our beloved founding document, but also the perversions to the original text made by a litany of Supreme Court precedents that, to date, enjoy “supreme law of the land” status.
You know — the “interpretations,” piling up since as early as 1928, that allow mountains of laws to be created by unelected bureaucrats instead of elected members of Congress. The “interpretation” that allows Congress, under the Interstate Commerce clause, to regulate what a single farmer plants in his field. The “interpretation” that says Congress can “tax” individuals for refusing to engage in a particular economic transaction. The “interpretation” that Congress may use a virtually unlimited taxing and spending power to bully states into enacting the laws that Congress wants them to have.
Together with scores of others, these “interpretations” have effectively —albeit illegitimately — amended the federal government’s operating manual.
What many Americans don’t realize is that the states, collectively, have all the power they need to overturn those “interpretations” — legitimately and authoritatively — and to reinstate and clarify the original meaning of constitutional language that has succumbed to federal distortion.
By using the state-controlled process of initiating corrective constitutional amendments through Article Five of the U.S. Constitution, the states have every opportunity to reinvigorate the truly federal system designed for a nation of liberty-loving, self-governing people.
If you want to see a renaissance of American federalism, with a strictly limited national government and state governments creating the policies best suited to their own citizens, urge your state legislators to support resolutions triggering an amendment-proposing convention to rein in federal power. Chances are, your state will be considering it early in 2016, so now is the time to make your voice heard.
You see, the truly astounding thing about the game of “chess” that my nieces played together was not that the younger niece flouted the rules in a way that gave her all the advantage. The truly astounding thing was that my older niece allowed her to continue doing it.
It is said that “we get the government we deserve.” Will we do our part to insist that our state legislators use their constitutional power to repair the federal machine? Or will we watch passively as Washington, D.C., plays by its own, constantly-evolving version of the rules?
Rita Martin Dunaway serves as National Legislative Strategist for the Convention of States Project. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on facebook.
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